## B theory of time and free will vs determinism debate

• 199
Suppose that the B theory of time was true, does it then follow that determinism is true?

It is hard to see how free will or indeterminacy could be true so that just leaves determinism or compatibilism.

I am curious to know what you guys think.
• 745
I think a lot depends on you definition of free will, and a stance on theory of mind, and not so much if determinism is true.

As for determinism, it depends a lot on your QM interpretation: The cat is both dead and alive, and it is probably (Bohmian mechanics excepted) not determined what will be seen when you look at the cat. But unless you can will the cat to be alive or dead, it seems like determinism or lack of it plays an insignificant role in the debate.

As for definition of free will, that is usually given in A-series terms which leads to nonsense when discussing a B-series view. So "could have done otherwise" is an example of an A version of the definition.

My point: Get the ducks in a row first before you draw conclusions, else the discussions go past each other as people are working off different premises.
• 9.9k
The only answer I can really give is "I'm not sure" because I can't manage to make sense of the B theory of time really. It just seems ridiculously incoherent and kind of stupid to me.
• 1.9k
To be fair, the A theory has logical problems as well, like having no well defined start, being an infinite regress.
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With B time, you still have the problem (for intuition) that it either appeared "out of nowhere" or always existed. You don't have an infinite regress, but the intuitive problem isn't the regress so much as either appearing "out of nowhere" or always existing.

But that wasn't what I was referring to. Time (in my ontology) is simply change or motion. Claiming that it's "just an illusion" then is incoherent, because the "illusion" involves change (it seemed like that, then it seems like this--that's a change) and hence it's not an illusion after all. Something changes or moves. That is time.
• 1.9k
With B time, you still have the problem (for intuition) that it either appeared "out of nowhere" or always existed. You don't have an infinite regress, but the intuitive problem isn't the regress so much as either appearing "out of nowhere" or always existing.

Something always existing makes sense. You can't get something from nothing so something must have always existed. Could it be what always existed is the B theory version of time and space?

Something changes or moves. That is time

I see it more as time is something that enables change and enables cause/effect. Time flows even when nothing changes. If you have a clock and empty space next to it, time is changing equally for both.

As I mention here (https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/comment/245002) Einstein's equations suggest that something in the universe is time aware so it can assign mass to objects.
• 9.9k
Something always existing makes sense. You can't get something from nothing so something must have always existed. Could it be what always existed is the B theory version of time and space?

If that makes intuitive sense to you then there's no problem with infinite regress.

And no, it can't be the B theory because the B theory is incoherent.

I see it more as time is something that enables change and enables cause/effect. Time flows even when nothing changes. If you have a clock and empty space next to it, time is changing equally for both.

Obviously I don't agree with this. I don't buy that there is something, "space," that can be empty, either, by the way. In my ontology space supervenes on extension and extensional relations. It doesn't exist "independently" so to speak. (I also don't agree with necessarily linking time to cause and effect or to entropy.)
• 1.9k
But A theory is incoherent also because an infinite regress is incoherent. B theory can be combined with finite spacetime to avoid any need for an infinite regress.
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I'd say that an infinite regress is counterintuitive (and only because of the "always existing" notion), not incoherent. I'd ask you to explain how it's incoherent to you, but I'd understand if it's something you can't explain, as incoherence will often naturally be.

I explained above why B theory is stupid, because it doesn't get rid of change. It just moves it to so called "illusion"
• 1.9k
I'll adopt an axiom of cause and effect and then argue that an infinite regression in time is impossible:

1. By the axiom of cause and effect, there would be an infinite regress of events into the past
2. The number of events in an infinite regress is > any number
3. Thats a contradiction (can’t be both a number and > any number)
4. Making up magic numbers is not allowed (can break any theory if magic is admissible)
5. An infinite regress is impossible

Or a more simple argument; time is a series or sequence, it must have a first member for the whole sequence to exist. An infinite regress is missing a first member, so logically the whole thing does not exist.
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The problem there would be that you're saying that an infinite series has to be a (definite) number that's greater than any number. There wouldn't be a specifiable number, it would be an infinity.

Also, why would there have to be a first member for it to exist? That's contrary to what we'd be positing in the first place.

(Not that I want to focus on this issue, again--it's not the problem I'm referring to)
• 1.9k
There wouldn't be a specifiable number, it would be an infinity.

Which is not a number. Basic maths says there is no number X greater than all others because X+1>X. No infinite numbers. So my proof holds.

Also, why would there have to be a first member for it to exist? That's contrary to what we'd be positing in the first place.

Would you exist if the moment of your conception was removed from time? There has to be a first moment of time (t) for the next moment (t+1) to exist, likewise if t does not exist, t+2, t+3 etc... do not exist. So none of the infinite regress logically exists.
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Which is not a number. Basic maths says there is no number X greater than all others because X+1>X. No infinite numbers. So my proof holds.

Right, there's not going to be a number. It's infinite.

You're not being a mathematical realist, by the way, are you? (I'm not a realist on mathematics.)

Would you exist if the moment of your conception was removed from time?

If I were to always exist, there couldn't be a moment of conception for me.

There has to be a first moment of time (t) for the next moment (t+1) to exist,

No, there doesn't. If it extends back infinitely then there can't be a first moment.(Also acknowledging that there are no real "moments," there's just real change or motion.)
• 1.9k
You're not being a mathematical realist, by the way, are you?

I believe nature is fundamentally logical and that it can be accurately described using logic IE maths.

If I were to always exist, there couldn't be a moment of conception for me.

Maybe I'm misunderstanding you but that's the B theory of time?

No, there doesn't. If it extends back infinitely then there can't be a first moment.(Also acknowledging that there are no real "moments," there's just real change or motion.)

I agree, no first moment in an infinite regress so the whole thing cannot exist.
• 20
Majority votes should run the country, not a single person or small group of wealthy people. 90% of the population aren’t suddenly going to say “we want the right to kill people whenever we please”.(not yet anyway)
• 9.9k
I believe nature is fundamentally logical and that it can be accurately described using logic IE maths.

In my view logic and mathematics are basically a way that we think about the world. They're a type of language. So it would be saying that the nature is fundamentally English-oriented, say (which I don't believe).

Maybe I'm misunderstanding you but that's the B theory of time?

No. I was thinking of it in terms of the A theory (because I don't think that the B theory even makes any sense).

With either the A theory or B theory, you can have infinite time or not, it can either have always existed or it could have been created at some point (re the latter, with A theory, if it was created it can't also be infinite, with B theory, it can be created and infinite).
• 1.9k
With either the A theory or B theory, you can have infinite time or not

I don't think you can have finite time with the A theory. Then there would just be a start of time with nothing (no time) before it so it requires creation ex nihilo with no time which is impossible.

With the B theory, you can have finite time. The end of time precedes and cause the start of time. The Big Crunch causes the Big Bang. An eternal circle of time.
• 745
A-series terms which leads to nonsense when discussing a B-series view. So "could have done otherwise" is an example of an A version of the definition.

An example below:

With B time, you still have the problem (for intuition) that it either appeared "out of nowhere" or always existed.
Both "appeared out of nowhere" and "always existed" are A-series references, which of course are incompatible with B series. The block view just is. There is no 'beginning to exist' of it, because that puts time outside the block, which is not how the view depicts time.
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You can't get outside of it with because either the block of time always was there or there was nothing and then time suddenly appeared.
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Anyway, again, the stupid "always there or something came from nothing" problem is not the issue. The B theory fails because time is change or motion, and the B theory doesn't dispense with change or motion. It just moves change/motion to psychology or the so-called "illusion" of time, which means that there is time in the A theory sense after all.
• 198
A-series terms which leads to nonsense when discussing a B-series view. So "could have done otherwise" is an example of an A version of the definition.

Well, what sort of non A-series terms are there? I actually think the attempt to remove A-series terms from a description of the B-series is what leads to nonsense (such as this whole "triviality problem" that people are currently discussing about the A vs. B theories of time). Just take what you said later as an example:

The block view just is (my emphasis).

What could the "is" mean other than that it is present, or that it exists now (both being A-series terms)? Of course, I imagine you don't want to say that you mean that by your use of the term, but what else could it possibly be? A tenseless use of the term? What could that possibly mean?

Now as for my own views on the matter, I think that the B-theory of time does make alot of A-series terms irrelevant, but does not eliminate them altogether. The idea that things "will happen" or "did happen" make no sense in a world where time doesn't pass.
• 745
You can't get outside of it with because either the block of time always was there or there was nothing and then time suddenly appeared.
That would be two times: The one in which the block is created, and another that is a dimension of the block. Eternalism is not a view of there being two kinds of time.

I really don't care if you understand it or not. The comment was directed to the OP as an example of what happens when you mix both views as you continue to do.
• 745
Well, what sort of non A-series terms are there?
No tensed verbs for starters. The universe cannot be a created object for instance. There is no 'there was no universe, and then later there was'. If that happens, there are two kinds of time, and you're talking a different view. The other kind if time is the one that the deity lives in, except then the deity lives within something he didn't create, so that's a problem, but not my problem.

I actually think the attempt to remove A-series terms from a description of the B-series is what leads to nonsense (such as this whole "triviality problem" that people are currently discussing about the A vs. B theories of time). Just take what you said later as an example:

The block view just is (my emphasis).
— noAxioms

What could the "is" mean other than that it is present, or that it exists now (both being A-series terms)?
There is no 'the present' or 'now' in the view, so I'm not sure what is being referred to with that comment. OK, you use 'present' as a verb, so perhaps you mean some other declaration of being. To be honest, the view doesn't assert 'presence' at all since none of the view seems to require it. The angles of a square are all right angles whether or not the square is present. I've thus never really asserted it. I'm quite in the minority on that point since everybody presumes that presence, but it is a premise, not something that can be proven without assuming the conclusion.

So I don't mean hardly anything when I say it 'just is'. I don't feel I have to.

Of course, I imagine you don't want to say that you mean that by your use of the term, but what else could it possibly be? A tenseless use of the term? What could that possibly mean?
B-series descriptions should simply not make reference to the present, which has no meaning in the view. All of Terrapin Station's comments made reference to it, so they're A-descriptions.

Now as for my own views on the matter, I think that the B-theory of time does make alot of A-series terms irrelevant, but does not eliminate them altogether. The idea that things "will happen" or "did happen" make no sense in a world where time doesn't pass.
I've also seen 'proofs' that the presentist view cannot be, but they all seem to be faulty.
I have my own, one I've not seen elsewhere, but in the end I make presentism pretty silly, but not impossible.
• 198
There is no 'the present' or 'now' in the view, so I'm not sure what is being referred to with that comment.

What I am saying is that first part of your sentence, that there is no "present" or "now" doesn't make sense. There is no meaning to the idea that the "block universe exists" without stating that it either exists now, did exist, or will exist.

We cannot eliminate the present from our discussion, especially if we are talking about what exists (which is by the way, a present tense term). Just look at our conversation right now, for instance which is embedded in the now.

As a result, I believe that all views about time are "presentist" to the extent that everything that is said to "exist" is presently existing. It is sort of trivial, but that is what "exists" technically means (as again, it is a present tense term). Of course, this is not to say that we cannot distinguish the views about time in a substantive way, as I do believe that there is a deep disagreement between them, but such a difference shouldn't be based upon a rejection of the above statement.
• 5.4k
Whether B theory is right or not, you do not know what you will do next. Hence, you must choose.

So what's the problem?
• 745
What I am saying is that first part of your sentence, that there is no "present" or "now" doesn't make sense. There is no meaning to the idea that the "block universe exists" without stating that it either exists now, did exist, or will exist.
I can agree that I find little meaning to the block universe existing or not. I see no need for distinction between the two. But as for the run of the mill B-theorist, they'd not ever say that the universe exists now, or it once existed, or will exist. Any of those is like saying it is located to the left of the invisible pink unicorn: a relation with an entity not acknowledged.

Just look at our conversation right now, for instance which is embedded in the now.
History is littered with such statements. Are you the only one that is correct about it?
I'm not saying it is wrong for a B-theorist to use tensed verbs in everyday language. They serve a very useful purpose. But describing the universe in the same manner as an object existing within the universe is wrong. I think a lot of people see the universe as an object like that, coming into being somehow from non-being, just like every actual object in the universe. I don't. I think it contradicts what a universe should be.

Are you saying you don't understand the view or you simply disagree with it? It's hard to tell from your posts. T-S obviously doesn't understand it, arguing inconsistency with premises the view doesn't make.

As a result, I believe that all views about time are "presentist" to the extent that everything that is said to "exist" is presently existing. It is sort of trivial, but that is what "exists" technically means (as again, it is a present tense term).
Fine. Pick another word, and that word also probably should not be used, since it is a word used for objects. Does the last ice age exist? It is part of the history of Earth, as is the process where the sun swallows it. You seem to want a different word since you disapprove of it being said that those events 'exist' in the same way that I exist. Then I would still balk at that same word being used to say that the universe exists, since it doesn't seem to be an event or a created object or anything.

I like 'exists'. Both those events above are present in the block, so I don't see anything wrong with using the word. It means 'is a member of' [the universe], and not just 'is a current member of'. The block is not present in the block, so it seems quite circular/incoherent to say the block exists in that way.
• 198
But as for the run of the mill B-theorist, they'd not ever say that the universe exists now, or it once existed, or will exist.

I'd imagine that alot of them would try to say that, but that leads to an incoherent view which in turn leads to confusion and mistakes. Confusion to the point where people even question whether or not there is an actual disagreement between the A and B-theories of time. And when you have people questioning the substance of a core issue in a field of philosophy, you know that something's gone wrong.

I think a lot of people see the universe as an object like that, coming into being somehow from non-being, just like every actual object in the universe. I don't. I think it contradicts what a universe should be.

I don't think a creation event or beginning to time exists either, but that is irrelevant to the B-theory or the A-theory since an eternal universe is compatible with both.

Are you saying you don't understand the view or you simply disagree with it? It's hard to tell from you posts.

I have an understanding of the B-theory and the A-theory of time which I believe captures the essence what most people understand the view to be. That version of the B-theory I also happen to disagree with but that is not something I will go into here.

The problem that I have is how A-theorists and B-theorists describe their views, which I honestly find baffling given how confusing it can be. I feel like the reason why some people (don't know if Terrapin Station is a part of that group) say that the B-theory is nonsensical is because they hear phrases such as "all times exist, but by 'exist' I don't mean it in the way we traditionally mean it". Well what does it even mean then? Given the lack of a satisfactory response on some fourth "tenseless" version of existence, then one may conclude that the view makes no sense at all.

You seem to want a different word since you disapprove of it being said that those events 'exist' in the same way that I exist. Then I would still balk at that same word being used to say that the universe exists, since it doesn't seem to be an event or a created object or anything.

It's not that I disapprove of the word being used. I gave a number of different ideas of what the B-theorist idea of "all times exist" could mean, and all of them are A-series terms, which you have denied. My question is what other meaning of "exists" could there be if it doesn't refer to "presently existing", "did exist" or "will exist". Feel free to use the term, but just be clear on what it means.
• 5.7k
I think a lot of people see the universe as an object like that, coming into being somehow from non-being, just like every actual object in the universe. I don't. I think it contradicts what a universe should be.

Why does this contradict what a universe should be? Do you think that a universe ought to be given a special status? Why, and what would be that special status?
• 5.4k
It fails because it can also explain A-time? Odd.
• 745
I have an understanding of the B-theory and the A-theory of time which I believe captures the essence what most people understand the view to be. That version of the B-theory I also happen to disagree with but that is not something I will go into here.
I dislike calling it B-theory since that name includes growing block view, which is still presentism.
I'm an eternalist, not just a B-theorist.
My question is what other meaning of "exists" could there be if it doesn't refer to "presently existing", "did exist" or "will exist".
All three of those are circular definitions, and thus not really definitions.
I did my best to describe how I use the word in the tail of my prior post. You didn't comment on it.
• 198
I dislike calling it B-theory since that name includes growing block view, which is still presentism.
:brow:
All three of those are circular definitions, and thus not really definitions.
How so? What's so circular about them?
I did my best to describe how I use the word in the tail of my prior post. You didn't comment on it.
It means 'is a member of' [the universe], and not just 'is a current member of'.
What does "is" mean here? I take it that "is" means that it currently is, but then again, I'd think you would have a problem with that so if you have an alternative conception then please take this opportunity to offer one. I still have yet to understand what other sense of "exists" there is if there is one.
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